Dance Yourself Away
EPIC presented by SFU dance undergrads
Words by Kaylin Metchie
Edited by Elysse Cheadle
EPIC – SFU Student Dance Show
The cavernous Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU is a formidable arena. Its expanse highlights your smallness, while its dark walls envelope you like a hug from a long lost loved one. Tonight, the space is warm, buzzing with the sounds of friends, family and dance enthusiasts of all kinds. Seated at the back of the theatre, I am given vantage over both the crowd and the performance space. Rain coats and scarves are draped over the cushioned seats. The limited seating means we are packed together like cultured sardines, elbows rubbing against strangers in the neighbouring seats.
There is a shift in the lighting. The hum of voices quiets. The front of house speech is given and the audience turns an expectant eye upon the stage.
The sound of flesh against the marley floor meets our ears. In the shadows we see a mass of bodies, writhing. Back and forth. Back and forth. This first piece, Humble Violet, choreographed by SFU grad Katie DeVries, highlights the expressiveness of joints. Shoulders and elbows and limbs move through the air with contained power like a caged animal, pacing, plotting.
The soundtrack is heavy – consistent tones against the fluid human form. The aesthetics of this piece are rooted in dichotomies. The sound of three industrial fans swell and fill the room contrasting the solitude of a solo dancer; crisp white circles of lights highlight the softness of the human form. In the final image, a male dancer drags himself towards a sole pool of light, only to be grabbed by multiple hands, pulling him back into the dark. The movements of the dancers causes a question to surface to the top of your skull. Why, amongst all these people, I continue to feel the crush of loneliness. In this sea of faces pointed towards the shadow-filled stage, we are utterly alone.
After a short pause to redress the stage, the house lights diminish leaving six starkly white pools of light and revealing two microphones. It is always exciting when the prospect of text is presented in dance shows. Dancers can create amazing sentences with their moves, their limbs are their words, a visual story. But Y?Y?Y?, created by Wen Wei Wang in “collaboration with the dancers” (as stated in the playbill), has a special relationship with text. Not only do the dances recite monologues, sing and tell stories, the movement is inspired by the personal stories spoken by the dancers.
The dancers position themselves throughout the stage. A single dancer approached one of the microphones and sings Happy Birthday. The audience momentarily stifles a laugh, but only for a split second. The dancer’s voice is so sincere and hypnotic. Throughout the piece, snippets of select biographies are spoken. At one point, a shirtless dancer manipulates the sound of his breath by heaving his chest in and out. The piece feels effortlessly punk and very cool.
If the first two pieces were the appetizer and salad course of the evening, then Singularity by Crystal Pite is the meat dish. The stage is consumed by the bodies of 60 dancers. A wave of movement passes through the line like an electric pulse. The dancers are clothed similarly in dystopic uniforms of our technology age. Beautifully abstract factory workers representing our internalized rebellion.
There is a human shaped mass of bugs moving from space to space complete with the agitated flickering of hands and heads. Dancers come together and move apart forming monuments with their bodies. Like classic Greek statutes, each monument is full of movement and expression. The energy of 60 dancers washes over the audience. You are pulled into their frenzy, their excitement. The heat in the room rises as all eyes watch this uniformed mass surge from space to space. Despite having performed in at least one of the previous pieces, the mass of dancers in this final piece bring relentless energy and focus.
The curation of the three dances felt balanced – they had enough in common to create a harmonious whole but were different enough to keep the audience engaged and excited. Each piece utilized the strengths of the SFU dancers to present different aspects of the human experience, from the solitude of life, to the humour of the self, to the power of an indistinguishable mass.
EPIC, presented by SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts ran from November 19th – 22nd at The Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.
Photo gallery of EPIC by Jonathan Kim